West Africa’s regional bloc on Wednesday said a military intervention in junta-ruled Niger was “the last resort” as Nigeria cut electricity supplies to intensify pressure on the country’s coup leaders. As ex-colonial power France sent in a fifth plane to evacuate its citizens, coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani insisted they had no reason to quit the country.
Joining the departures, the United States ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy in Niamey. West African military chiefs were meeting in Nigeria’s capital Abuja to frame a response while a delegation was in Niger for negotiations, a week after the coup that shook the fragile nation.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders on Sunday imposed trade and financial sanctions, giving the coup leaders a week to reinstate Niger’s democratically elected president or face the possible use of force. “(The) military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security.
An ECOWAS team headed by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar was in Niger for talks, he added at the start of a three-day meeting of the grouping’s military chiefs in Abuja. West Africa’s pre-eminent military and economic power Nigeria, the current chair of ECOWAS, has vowed a firm line against coups that have proliferated across the region since 2020.
A source in Niger’s power company, Nigelec, said Nigeria had cut electricity to its neighbour as a result of the sanctions.
Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, depends on Nigeria for 70 percent of its power. Junta-ruled Mali and Burkina Faso have warned any military intervention in their neighbour would be tantamount to a “declaration of war” against them.